Minnesota wins first-ever battle with Beavers

David La

BEMIDJI, Minn. —
The Minnesota men’s hockey team stepped off the bus and entered the John S. Glas Fieldhouse together as emissaries from the most tradition-rich program in the state.
The Gophers helped Bemidji State — in its second year at the Division I level — pack the Fieldhouse with 2,358 fans and instill a buzz in the community.
Shortly after extending its right hand to greet the upstart Beavers, Minnesota whipped out the billyclub in its left, clobbering Bemidji State 9-3 on Saturday night.
“We didn’t come out lackadaisical at all,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “Bemidji saw our `A’ game, they didn’t see a sub-par effort from us at all.”
While eventually crumpling under duress from the Gophers 54 shots on goal, the pesky Beavers got on the board first.
“(The game) couldn’t have started any worse,” Lucia said. “The first shift of the game we give up an odd man rush.”
Bemidji State wing Scott Dickson slammed home a deflected puck a mere 35-seconds into the game, earning a raucous ovation from the sold-out building.
“It was a good start, but our inexperience showed,” Beavers coach Bob Peters said.
Not to be outdone, Gophers defensemen Mat DeMarchi, a Bemidji native, knotted the game at one with a goal from the blueline.
From there, Minnesota senior captain Erik Westrum took over. The center assisted on four goals overall, feeding more attackers than an Army mess cook. Westrum also contributed a goal of his own, giving him new personal game-bests in assists and points.
“Westrum was a man out there,” Lucia said. “Westrum’s line was really good tonight. Every shift, they were pretty much in control.”
Westrum’s linemates Grant Potulny (3) and Nick Anthony (2) combined for 10 points, helping the Gophers regain momentum of the game despite the early Bemidji State goal.
“It’s not a one man show,” Westrum said. “I have two great wingers in Anthony and Potulny. Every shift, night in and night out we expect to dominate no matter if we’re playing Bemidji State or North Dakota.”
Minnesota received an added boost from its defensemen, as junior Jordan Leopold broke out for one goal and three assists.
Leopold started the night attempting to break up the Beavers rush, only to see the puck deflect off his stick and into the lap of Dickson for the first Bemidji State goal.
All was forgiven after the second-team all-WCHA pick assisted on the Gophers second and third scores.
“Jordan’s taking a big step,” Lucia said. “He’s probably going to be an all-American the way he looks right now.”
After beating Notre Dame 7-3 to start the season, Minnesota has now put up 16 goals in six periods of hockey. It took the Gophers 15 periods to reach the same number last season.
With the WCHA schedule starting next weekend, Minnesota can expect a similar reduction in scoring, a fact not lost on Lucia.
“Its going to get more difficult next week, we’re certainly not going to score nine goals,” Lucia said. “We’re going to have to clamp down defensively.”

David La Vaque covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]